5 Essential CRM plugins your customer-facing teams sorely need in 2023

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Are you making the most of your customer relationship management software to boost revenue and improve service to existing clients?

Companies of all sizes can benefit from workflow automation technologies since they allow for greater deal closure and client satisfaction. Although powerful CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot cover a lot of ground, they don’t excel in every area that fast-developing businesses require. You need robust plugins to make full use of your CRM.

For your customer-facing teams, we recommend these CRM plugins:

1. Zoho CRM (Web, iOS, Android)

Zoho CRM has plans that are affordable for teams of one or 100, and they can grow with you as you do. How cheap is it? Start with free for three users, then move on to their small business-focused Bigin CRM ($7/month/user), and finally their CRM Plus ($57/month/user), which combines sales, marketing, help desk, and other channels into one platform. On top of that, Zoho offers add-on suites for integration, such as Finance, Custom Apps, and Forms, depending on which CRM plan you have.

For this review, I’ll be focusing on the CRM Plus because it’s the best example of scalability. The main CRM dashboard is where you can get to all of this edition’s built-in channels, such as projects, marketing, help desk, and social. To change the settings for any of these, click the settings icon and then choose the channel you want to change. For example, to add social channels, click Social in the settings menu, then click Social Channels, and then choose from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. It only took a few clicks to add my LinkedIn profile.

Canvas is a new feature of Zoho that shows how much the company cares about its customers. Even though Zoho already lets you change a lot (see Wizards below), Canvas lets you change the look and feel of your CRM as if you were designing the user interface from scratch. You can get to it from Setup, choose the module you want to (re)design (like Contacts), and go. Then you can either start from scratch or choose a template that you can change. From there, you can drag and drop the data fields, elements, and styles to the WYSIWYG editor page to choose them. Last, choose which teams will be able to see the new design. You can make each module look different or clone them so they all look the same.

Zoho’s reporting feature is one of the most complete of all CRMs. Dozens of pre-made reports (Sales, Desk, Projects) can be changed to show different views (chart, table, tabular, and more). One nice thing is that you can talk about any of the reports in the comment sections. Campaigns and Social each have their own section for reports, and the Motivator app lets you turn sales into a game by holding contests for key performance indicators like leads converted, deals won, and emails sent.

2. Salesforce Sales Cloud (Web, iOS, Android)

Salesforce Sales Cloud is a good option for companies that need a CRM app that can be changed in a lot of ways. With its own customization options, internal ecosystem, and third-party AppExchange, it’s almost impossible not to be able to make a custom platform.

With the Flow Builder, you can make your own automation for managing processes. In Settings, click Flows and choose the type of flow you want to make. For example, a record-triggered flow lets you decide what happens after a certain record, like a contact, is created. Using the visual builder, you can then add conditions. For example, you could send a follow-up email to contacts who were only added during a certain time frame.

At the page level, Salesforce lets you decide who can see and change fields. Depending on their jobs, you may not want employees to be able to see or change fields in a contact record that have nothing to do with their jobs. This can be for security reasons or to make sure that employees who don’t have the right knowledge don’t act dishonestly. You can also write your own help text for each field to explain what it means. For example, you might have an explanation for a discount field that says, “This is the most that can be taken off for this account type.” Anything above that needs manager approval. These instructions are good reminders, especially for new employees, of how business is done.

To change a page like Contacts, click the Setup wheel in the upper right corner and then click Edit Object. From there, you can change things like the layout and fields on the page.

The AppExchange lets both paid and free apps connect with hundreds of third-party services. You can search for apps based on your software edition (professional, enterprise, etc.), category, prices, ratings, and languages. One thing you should check is if an app works with your version of Salesforce. For example, integration with the D&B Hoovers prospecting app requires Enterprise or higher, while the minimum edition for the similar ZoomInfo app is Professional.

In Salesforce, you can make a report for each piece of information you gather. There are dozens of ready-made reports for deals, activities, top accounts, win ratios, conversion rates, and anything else you might want to track. And the thing that every sales manager hates the most? Reps don’t keep their deals up to date. With the Login Wall of Shame, you’ll know which reps aren’t even logging in, let alone making updates.

You can increase your capabilities even more with Salesforce’s Tackle integrations. Get Slack notifications for new opportunities, add leads from form submissions, or do anything else you can dream up.

3. Bitrix24 (Web, iOS, Android)

Working from home is here to stay. Bitrix24’s CRM is a good alternative to Salesforce for people who have teams that are spread out and work from different places. It gives people many ways to stay in touch, work together, and share information.

We can’t list all of this app’s features here, so we’ll just say that it has full CRM, marketing automation, project management, web design, and communication features. You can start by making departments (like marketing, sales, and customer service) and putting employees in each one. When you make departments, it’s easy to divide teams into workgroups, knowledge bases, and when talking to each other.

Workgroups are places where employees, departments, or other groups can get together to work on projects or ongoing tasks. Each one has its own tasks app, images, calendar, chat, and knowledge base (with both Wiki and custom options), so all team members can see and share the group’s work and progress. Knowledge bases, for instance, are like mini-websites that are part of your CRM. Users can make pages, post articles, send each other messages, and work together on projects and tasks.

With the internal chat feature, you can send messages to teammates individually, in groups, or by department. You can also add links, tags, and videos, as well as record and send them. To add a video, click Record Video in the chat window, wait five seconds, and the recording will start by itself. Record something, then click Stop and Use Video to add it to your chat message. You can also save the video to your Bitrix24 drive or other places like Google Drive that you choose.

Video conferencing is a simple and easy-to-use way to share your screen, record, and raise your hand. Copy your video’s link and send it to your attendees in chat or via the internal invite message or quick link. Connecting your email account (Gmail, Outlook, iCloud, Office 365, and more) lets you send and receive mail from contact records in the CRM and keeps a running history of messages.

The phone should not be forgotten. Bitrix24 can connect to more than 70 VoIP providers, like RingCentral, Nextiva, and Vonage. Bitrix24 also lets you rent a phone number and pay by the minute.

All plans include unlimited contacts, deals, and companies. Bitrix24 lets you change the fields and sections so that you can collect data that is useful for your business. One unique feature is Profile, which shows the “communication load” of the contact (does your company spend a lot of time talking to them?) and all relevant data, such as the value of deals, invoices paid, active invoices, conversion percentage, emails, and more.

Bitrix24 is free for an unlimited number of users with limited features, and paid plans start at $39 per month for five users.

4. Pipedrive (Web, iOS, Android)

Pipedrive is a good choice if you need sales CRM software that is easy to use. The platform gives salespeople a lot of freedom, but its only goal is to help them sell. You won’t find any other apps, like marketing or customer service features, to take your attention away.

The user interface of Pipedrive is simple, with all menu items on the left, a search box at the top, and a menu that can be expanded on each page to quickly add deals, activities, leads, etc. Your mailbox is one of the options on the menu. Once your email provider is connected, you can send emails right from your inbox or contact record. You can also track who opened your emails and see a history of them. You can also sync your Outlook or Google Calendar, manage your meeting schedule within the app, and make a link to send to contacts. Smart Contact Data is another useful feature that lets you pull known social and work information about contacts with just one click.

To use the app to make calls, you’ll need to buy blocks of call credits. Each month, you get five free hours of call credits, which go toward the minute-by-minute charges that add up each month. Calls can be made and recorded from the list view of People as well as from individual records. When you’re done with a call, you can move on to the next one by clicking the result from a list. In the timeline of a contract, everything that happens during a call is recorded, including the recording.

Pipedrive has some add-ons for sales, like LeadBooster and Web Visitors. The first one lets reps connect with potential customers through live chat, chatbots, forms, and prospecting. Prospector gives you information about companies and people who work there. You can search by size, industry, keyword, and other factors that fit your ideal buyers. Web Visitors gives you information about the companies that visit your site and what pages they look at in real-time. It does this by putting a tracker code into your site’s code. It will also let you know which visitors you already know about.

AI is used by the Sales Assistant to make suggestions about what you should focus on during your day. Workflow Automation also has templates for sales tasks like sending follow-up emails and doing tasks. Automations can do things like create tasks when a deal moves to a new stage, send a Slack message to a sales manager or set up a call.

Forecasting, deal duration, conversion, won, and average value is all part of the reports, while goals keep track of each week’s activities and revenue. Customizable reporting lets you add conditions from each data field, so you can get as detailed as you want. There are also standard and custom dashboards that can be used to keep track of all of the above. If you want to connect Pipedrive to other apps, the Marketplace has about 300 third-party native integrations with apps like Zoom, Slack, Trello, and QuickBooks.

If you want more automation power, Pipedrive’s Tackle integrations let you add new people to Mailchimp as subscribers and send Gmails when new deals are added to a stage, among many other things.

5. Ontraport (Web, iOS, Android)

If your company sells anything digitally (goods, services, subscriptions), Ontraport has several tools that may streamline the customer journey from initial contact to post-purchase support, including marketing, sales, payment processing, cross-selling, discount codes, and more.

In comparison to the other CRMs we’ve looked at, Ontraport takes some getting accustomed to. Clicking New Contact or New Deal, for instance, brings up a whole new screen with many tabs and fields. You aren’t sure what information is required, and you can’t find a save option; only a back button. It turns out that creating a new record is as easy as entering a single piece of data (such as a first name) and then pressing the back button.

Aside from this, a contact’s record reveals the various interactions the platform is capable of facilitating, such as previous campaigns and user activities, purchases, memberships, billing and payment information, subscriptions, and discounts. You may send an email, send a text message, add a task, and even do a credit card transaction from within a contact’s profile.

You can make a bargain by going to Deals, then New Deals (a feature only accessible on the Plus plan and higher) and filling in the necessary information. It’s simple from where you’re sitting right now. Connect people, calculate the projected win percentage and amount based on the weighted value, and launch. The total and weighted values for each stage are shown on a Kanban board that you can customize to show cards for each hand.

You can accept both one-time and recurring payments by setting up a payment gateway (like Authorize.net, PayPal, or Stripe) with one of their vendor integrations. If you want to build a membership site, take payments, and distribute exclusive material to your paying customers, Ontraport can help you do all that and more.

I put this theory to the test by offering a made-up $9.99 course on a membership site I established with a ready-made platform. I needed an automatic mechanism to receive credit card payments, so I set up a landing page for signups and used PayPal. Then I uploaded the course after including a welcome message and a sign-in page. The entire process took no more than 15 minutes, and the detailed instructions and examples made it nearly impossible to go wrong. As soon as I hit publish, I had a membership website (you can choose an Ontraport subdomain or your own), landing sites, and course lesson pages—all of which were trackable in Systems. The capabilities of Ontraport go well beyond what is shown in this elementary example.

The marketing suite provides both pre-made and customized automated programs to entice potential clients. To personalize the user’s journey, the builder employs a visual drag-and-drop editor that lets you specify triggers, actions (emails, messages, postcards), and filters with “if/then” branching logic. Metrics like conversion rates, recurring revenue, customer lifetime value, and contact flow can then be monitored across all of your campaigns.

Payment processors are just one type of third-party connection; others include e-commerce platforms (like Shopify or WooCommerce), video, voice/text, forms, memberships, shipping fulfillment, webinars, and more. Online business dealings (product sales, subscription sales, and so on) form the backbone of any sales reporting you might need to look at. Conversion rate, the average time between events, the total value of something across contacts, and the average value of a numeric across contacts are all metrics that may be monitored in dashboards.

Ontraport’s Tackle integrations will help you get the most out of the program. Create contacts in Ontraport from responses to a Typeform survey or from new WooCommerce sales orders.

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Maximize potential: Tackle’s automated time tracking & insights

Maximize potential: Tackle’s automated time tracking & insights